Have you ever really thought about your expectations?
I’ve heard it said that “expectations are premeditated resentments.” Here’s the thing: Any time our peace or happiness depends on another person’s behavior, we’re giving them the power to, at the very least, disappoint us and maybe hurt us. When we have expectations for others, we’re setting ourselves up for resentment too.
Our peace and happiness are proportional to our expectations. That means our peace and happiness are directly related to how many expectations we hold onto. Do you see how your expectations of certain people can hold the key to much of your happiness and peace? Think about all the ways you might be disappointed by the people who don’t meet your expectations. Do you think it might be time to take that powerful key back?
What Are Expectations?
Expectations” are another name for the “shoulds” that we apply to ourselves and others. Our expectations are under our control. They are about what we want in terms of people’s behavior.
Sometimes expectations are realistic, and often they’re not. They may even be tied to our worth or perceived value as a person.
Having expectations of others without communicating with them is the same as expecting them to READ YOUR MIND. Mind reading was a big expectation in my family of origin. It caused a lot of misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and resentment. I know how easy it is to believe that people in our lives will “just know” what we want or need at any given time. If they know us, or if they LOVE us, they should just KNOW without having to be TOLD, right? Not only do we expect them to automatically know what we want, but we assume that they’ll do those things too. When they don’t know the expectations and don’t follow through, we get resentful. How ridiculous is that? And how fair is that to them?
High and Low Expectations
If we use words like “never” and “always” when we think about our expectations, it indicates that it’s an unreasonable expectation because of “black and white” (aka “all or none”) thinking. Having unrealistic or unreasonably high expectations leads to resentment. When expectations are unrealistic, they’re often based on fear. If you find an unrealistic expectation in your thinking, look to see if it’s fear-based. Maybe you’re afraid of losing something or of someone taking something from you.
Conversely, having low expectations can lead to disappointment. Sometimes we purposefully, and maybe unconsciously, set low expectations for others in order to avoid feeling disappointed.
If you’re not sure whether your expectations are appropriate, ask someone whose integrity you respect to see what they think. Sometimes another’s perspective lends insight.
Another thing to consider about our expectations is that if we grew up in a dysfunctional or unhealthy environment, we might expect “bad things” always to be part of our lives. We may be adults who expect the worst of others or live fearfully. If this is true for you, changing your attitudes about what you expect will change your life. When we practice awareness of our expectations, we’re less likely to be disappointed, angry, or resentful when they’re not met.
We’re always changing, and our expectations need to be flexible and able to change along with us.
Examine Your Expectations
- Examine one expectation about someone specific. Is your expectation realistic? How do you know? How can you change it if it’s not?
- How important is this expectation? Is it worth sleepless nights? Is it worth feeling anger, hurt feelings, or resentment? How important is it really?
- Let go; detach. Let others be who they are. Notice how this feels. Is it pleasant? Why or why not?
- Let go of what people say (or didn’t say) or what they did (or didn’t) do. Let go of outcomes. Let go of your expectations. How does it feel? Scary? Anxiety-provoking? What can you do about that?
- Make the goal of “letting go” a process of progress.
- Focus on progress, not perfection.
- Trust the process.
Learn about the Cycle of Abuse
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Self-care: We can only choose to focus on and be responsible for ourselves, our own thoughts, actions, and behavior. We can take responsibility for getting our needs met instead of waiting for someone to change or meet our needs for us. We are in control of ourselves, and no one is responsible for us but us. We can change ourselves with patience, persistence, and practice.
Conscious awareness: Be aware and make conscious choices before acting. Self-awareness releases us from making impulsive and potentially damaging decisions. Practice mindfulness.
Learn about letting go of what you can’t control, by using positive-detachment
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About the Author
As a result of growing up in a dysfunctional home, and with the help of professional therapists and continued personal growth, Diane Metcalf developed strong coping and healing strategies. She happily shares those with those who want to learn and grow in their own recovery journies.
Diane is an experienced advocate, speaker, and writer on narcissism, family dysfunction, and abuse. She draws from her personal childhood experiences, as well as her work in human service fields like domestic violence and partner abuse. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and a Master of Science in Information Technology.
Her transformational books about healing and moving forward include the highly praised “Lemon Moms” series. This emotionally supportive collection explains narcissistic traits and teaches how to reconcile past hurts to begin self-nurturing, healing, and moving forward.
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